SpecialPress: The Ad Contrarian

The Ad Contrarian is Bob Hoffman, chief executive of Hoffman/Lewis advertising in San Francisco and St. Louis. He also writes one of the world’s funniest (and painfully truthful) blogs on advertising and marketing. Bob is former chief executive of Mojo USA and ex-president and creative director of Allen & Dorward. And in a former life he was a middle school science teacher. It’s with this objective point of view that he has burst many a hype bubble. His honesty and straight-forwardness is refreshing in a world of marketing mumbo jumbo. So if you like what Bob has to say, you’ll enjoy his books, The Ad Contrarian and 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising.

“It doesn’t have to be new. It just needs to be effective”. Does this pretty much sum up your view on advertising?

Yes. Newness by itself is no benefit. Newness is a carrier. It carries good and it carries bad. People with no ability to discern automatically assume that new means good. People with perspective understand the difference between new and good.

You’ve said “there’s no bigger sucker than a gullible marketer convinced he’s missing a trend”. How do you convince your clients that sometimes the best answer is a good old TV ad?

Fortunately, most of my clients are even more sceptical than I am. They are not going to spend their money, and they’re not going to allow me to spend their money, on trendy nonsense. They are very well aware of what works for them and they accept our philosophy of crawling before you walk. We test, if it works we do more. If it doesn’t work, we do something else. It ain’t brain surgery. It’s just common sense, a quality in short supply in the marketing world these days.

“Traditional” is usually used as a criticism. Your thoughts?

There is a growing group of people in business who think that digital advertising is a) free and b) magic. These people are idiots, but, unfortunately, they are often highly-placed idiots. In marketing today, the worst thing anyone can call you is “traditional” or “old.” So when the idiot CEO reads some nonsense about the magic of web advertising and he calls the CMO and says “why aren’t we doing more of this?” the CMO, desperate to avoid the “traditional” tag, has a knee-jerk reaction. It’s pathetic.

QR codes. Are they the future?

I have no idea about the future and I never make predictions. As for right now, QR codes are a complete waste of time and energy.

What do you think it takes to create a great, effective ad campaign? What piece of work are you most proud of?

It takes two things to make a great ad campaign: talent and will. Today I am a glorified bean counter and I haven’t done much creative work in the past several years. What I am most proud of is my recent book, “101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising.”

Are there any brands out there doing social media right? Do you have a favourite social media campaign?

I’m sure there are many brands using social media effectively, but frankly, none comes to mind. I have a feeling I am not the target for most social media campaigns because none has penetrated my consciousness.

Did your view of social media change after the huge success of your second book?

First, I wouldn’t characterise my second book as a “huge success.” Within the small niche of advertising ebooks on Amazon, it did quite well. This has not changed my view of social media. I have always viewed it as a tool that, when used realistically, can have value, particularly for customer relations and short-term sales promotions. What I have objected strenuously to is the con game that social media “experts” run on gullible clients, presenting social media as some form of instant magic.

What’s the most hilarious piece of feedback you’ve received from one of your blog posts?

Someone who didn’t like what I wrote about social media wrote a comment accusing me of being a gay child molester. There are some deeply sick fucks out there.

Have you had any death threats from social media fanatics?

I haven’t received death threats but I have received alarmingly nasty emails and comments. Interestingly, most of the really nasty stuff comes from failed ad people who are out of work and apparently have nothing to do everyday except troll the web looking for people to abuse anonymously. These people are bullies and cowards.

What 5 words of advice would you give to each of the following:

Young Planners – You are not the creative director

Young Creatives – You are not the creative director

Young Account Service – You are not the creative director

Young Media – Media choices require input from the creative director

Young clients – You are not the creative director

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